Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Feature ~ Stylish Canine

A Very Happy New Year to all of you. We are starting of this year's very first Friday Feature with Stylish Canine.  Owner Jen deHaans offers a variety of unique and handmade custom dog collars, leashes and vinyl dog themed decals in a variety of breeds, styles, and colors.

1. What is your shop name and URL?

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?
SFEtsy is the only team I am actively involved with.

3. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
I primarily make dog collars, leashes, and vinyl decals that I design myself. I learnt to sew a couple years ago just prior to opening my shop. I've been drawing for as long as I remember, which helps with the creative process for the decals, and using design software for quite awhile now. However, I have learned a number of things about what works well for cutting vinyl after designing so many of them.I actually learned a lot about vinyl cutting from the gentleman who sold me the machine off of Craigslist. He was an invaluable resource, just helped out and taught me so much without even being asked to, and I hope to "pay it forward" by helping other small businesses when possible (such as promoting some of the other SF Etsy shops in my 2014 Holiday Guide.

4. Tell us other interesting things about you.
I have worked in the software industry since 2001, and have written a bunch of books on design and animation. I decided to leave corporate jobs a few years ago to work for myself, and one of those ventures includes my Etsy shop! I love how it uses such a wide set of skills.

I am a big fan of dogs, and have some background in dog training. I even went to India for nearly a month to learn about dog training and behavior from a famous British behaviorist.

5. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
If you're selling on Etsy, I would recommend that you have an off-Etsy presence somewhere. It's always a good idea to have a backup ready just in case something happens on or to Etsy. Even if it's just a simple blog or website that you set up for free and point your domain to, or a few social media accounts, have a place where your customers can find you if you need to move elsewhere later on and promote a link to a new shop.

8. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?
I have a few items that resell quite well, even a few repeat customers, so I'm really happy to be making something people want. I think my first repeat customer was my highlight of the year (I only started seriously selling products in January 2014). I always have some notion people are disappointed when they receive the item, so it was a bit of proof that they were happy enough to buy something again.

9. If you had to be an animal for one week, which animal would you choose to be? And what would you do?
If I didn't say "dog" there'd be a gasp, right? I'd choose to be one of my two dogs, who both have it pretty good. We would go to the beach, and we would run and eat inappropriate found foodstuffs. They seem to get a big kick out of that, so I'd love to join in and experience that joy too.

10. What does buying and selling local handmade mean to you, and how has it affected your life?
Being part of a new community of people, and all having a solid understanding of the challenges, risks, and difficulties of making it work: finding an audience, making the numbers work, dealing with certain difficult situations. It has completely changed the way I look at small business, and earning an honest living. I love being creative in ways that does not involve a computer monitor. It also taught me that I really do enjoy making things with my hands.

11. Tell us about your first sale ever?
My first sale was at a local dog event in 2013. I remember being excited, and exclaiming to the vendor next to me "that's the first thing I've ever sold!" and her jaw kind of dropped ("who is this maniac?"). I also remember my first online sale to someone I didn't actually know personally sometime later that year, and checking the product and packaging probably a dozen times before I put it in the mail (I even stood in line and had a USPS clerk confirm my postage printed correctly!)

12. Give us some insight on how you personally, or your shop, gives back to your community.
I personally help a few animal advocacy efforts, but as part of my shop I started selling a few products where all the proceeds go to the organization in question. One is a local dog rescue, where the proceeds of a t-shirt are donated, and I also have a decal and bandana where all of the profits support a group advocating against bully breed discrimination. Cash is king to these groups, so I felt this was a pretty tangible way of helping them out directly. 


13. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit Our Team Page about joining SFEtsy!

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